By Kris LaGrange
Labor Day weekend forces us all to do a few things, and most likely that involves kissing the summer goodbye and embracing the school year. Some people work, especially those in retail. Unions and their leaders treat the Labor Day holiday as an opportunity to once again be fashionable and relevant.
These last few years have seen the topic of income inequality moving to the forefront of all national political conversations. As CEOs get richer, unions have taken to the streets and social networks demanding higher wages.
The average working Joe and Jill want their fair share, whether they work in fast food, health care or office jobs. The dialogue about the distribution of wealth has inspired state governments, municipalities and business leaders to take steps to end systemic problems that lead to income inequality before a job seeker accepts a position.
One of the biggest factors that hold down wages in minority communities is the fact that poorer communities face higher rates of incarceration. This often leads to formerly incarcerated individuals facing limited employment opportunities.
For years organized labor has been working to pass legislation that would “ban the box,” making it illegal for most employers to ask prospective employees about their criminal records on an initial employment application
Another impediment to raising the wage is being asked for a salary history. When an employer asks for a salary history, they are really asking to see how your previous employer valued your work. This practice affects women, who make 79 cents on the dollar compared to men. Since women are already entering the workforce making less, that trend continues throughout their working life because of this interview practice.
Banning the box and salary history laws can go a long way in standardizing hiring practices. When you take out some of the elements that allow employers to hide behind the fact that they are actively not hiring minorities and paying women less, you allow overtime wages to grow. Rising tides raise all ships.
These systemic changes in hiring protocols seem so simple that both labor and business, Republicans and Democrats, are willing to work on the same side of this issue. Like most great changes in America, our nation can only do better as a whole when both sides of the argument, such as labor and management in this respect, find commonality.
They are working together for the greater good, and with so much division and turmoil in today’s political landscape, Labor Day weekend is an appropriate time to acknowledge the good things that are happening in this country.
Kris LaGrange is the head of labor-focused UCOMM Communications in Bay Shore, L.I.